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Despite need to rebuild defensive line, Redskins cut Ricky Jean-Francois

Despite need to rebuild defensive line, Redskins cut Ricky Jean-Francois

The Redskins need to rebuild their defensive line, but few expected that would mean cutting players already on the squad. Exactly that happened Wednesday when the team released veteran Ricky Jean-François. 

News of François' release brings some surprise as the veteran played well in more than 400 snaps last season. Pro Football Focus rated the 30-year-old with a 4.6 overall positive rating and even stronger against the run. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk first reported the news. 

Only in Washington for two seasons, François started eight games for the 'Skins and totalled 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks. By releasing François, the Redskins save $3 million towards the 2017 salary cap, money that maybe could be dedicated to another player. 

A strong locker room presence, François was never shy about voicing his opinions. In recent weeks, his Twitter account became a frequent mystery, as it seemed the defensive tackle was questioning the Redskins offseason moves. Then, after the news of Scot McCloughan's firing, François openly criticized the team in a radio interview for the decision, saying the Redskins were headed back to "the drama."

By openly questioning the team, perhaps François opened the door for his release. At the same time, it's possible the Redskins brass saw a defensive tackle set to turn 31 in November and decided to take the cap savings. 

Regardless, this leaves the Redskins without their two best defensive linemen from the 2016 season. Chris Baker signed with the Bucs early in free agency, and François will likely sign elsewhere before too long. Washington has brought in new players in Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, though their track records will not elicit too much excitement from fans. 

Impact help on the defensive line remains available in free agency, Johnathan Hankins and Dontari Poe stand out. The Redskins likely had enough room under the cap to work a deal for either player, but François release frees up even more cash.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Defensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Defensive line

On the roster: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier, Phil Taylor, Matt Ioannidis, Joey Mbu, A.J. Francis, Ondre Pipkins, Brandon Banks

Locks: Allen, McGee, McClain, Hood, Lanier

Allen still has plenty to learn. Don’t expect him to dominate from Week 1 on. But he will be a good one, both against the run and rushing the passer.

Maybe, just maybe, the Redskins signed a player on the rise in McGee. Despite missing seven games last year (a red flag, to be sure), he forced the first two fumbles of his career and had 2.5 sack after getting just half a sack in his first three seasons combined. He’s just 27 and perhaps the Redskins can get a good, productive, multi-year run out of a defensive line free agent signee. They are due, that’s for sure.

McClain is the more experienced of the two free agent D-linemen. He also posted career bests in forced fumbles (2) and sacks (2.5). The seven-year veteran stayed healthy last year but he missed 14 games in 2015 so that is something to keep an eye on. He will turn 29 next month.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

Hood seemed to be on the bubble all last offseason but the struggles of free agents Stephen Paea and Kendall Reyes opened the door for him. He played out of position at nose tackle for much of the season and he struggled. If things work out as they should he will be a rotational D-lineman, a role better suited to his skill set.

The coaches seem to be very pumped up about Lanier, in part because he pumped iron all offseason. He was listed at 270 pounds last year. Jim Tomsula said that he is now up to 291, a proper weight for a 3-4 defensive end. He will play some in the 3-4 but it’s likely that most of his snaps come lined up inside with Allen when the Redskins go into nickel.

On the bubble: Taylor, Ioannidis, Mbu, Francis, Pipkins

The fact that there are so many on the bubble is a result of the huge question mark that remains at nose tackle. All four of these players are candidates to make it if they can perform when the pads go on in Richmond and when the preseason starts up. Yes, even undrafted free agent Pipkins.

The best-case scenario is that Taylor stays healthy and has enough skill left to make the team and start at NT. Injuries have derailed his career after he had a couple of promising seasons as a first-round draft pick of the Browns. He hasn’t played a snap since 2014 so the 335-pounder is far from a slam dunk solution at nose.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Ioannidis was a fifth-round pick last year who was released in the cut to 53, signed to the practice squad, then later promoted to the active roster. The Temple product played sparingly, baby steps, really. The final tally was just 103 snaps, more than 16 in a game just once. He needs to step up in training camp to make the team.

Their resumes say that Mbu and Francis should be competing to stay on the practice squad, where both spent time last year. But the nose tackle situation opens the door for them. They may be more long shots than bubble players but opportunity is there.

Long shots: Banks

If you put down the odds that all 90 players under contract have of making the 53-man roster, Banks just might be the longest shot. He’s undersized at 285 pounds and he’s an undrafted rookie out of Charlotte. But he is under contract and he will be in camp, giving him a better shot than the guys who are at home wishing they were in camp.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver | Interior O-line

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins Playbook: One stat where Rob Kelley is way better than Ezekiel Elliott

Redskins Playbook: One stat where Rob Kelley is way better than Ezekiel Elliott

The point here is not to suggest Robert Kelley is a better running back than Ezekiel Elliott. Both players were rookies last season, Elliott drafted in the top five out of Ohio State and Kelley undrafted out of Tulane. 

Elliott led the NFL in rushing, gaining more than 1,600 yards and averaging more than 5 yards-per-carry. Kelley did not take over the Redskins No. 1 RB job until mid-season, and while he didn't even rush for 1,000 yards, he gained 700 yards in nine starts and averaged more than 4 YPC.

There was one stat, however, where Kelley stood out. Pro Football Focus provides the baseline.

The statistic stands out for Jordan Howard, a star rookie runner for the Bears. Howard ran for more than 1,300 yards last season on 252 carries to get to his 40 misses. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Elliott's run totals were much, much higher. The Cowboys star ran the ball 322 times, resulting in 36 missed tackles. Kelley ran the ball just 168 times, and made 35 defenders miss. 

Using basic math, Elliott made a defender miss about every 8.9 carries. Kelley made a defender miss about every 4.8 carries. 

Redskins coaches talked repeatedly about Kelley's vision and ability to make defenders miss as a big part of his ascension to the top running back spot. Ends up, they were right. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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